This week, Vice President Joe Biden announced progress on his global vision for the Cancer Moonshot. Announced were 10 new Memoranda of Understanding or Memoranda of Cooperation for international cancer research and care, as well as new efforts in the emerging scientific areas of precision oncology, the funding of collaborative research centers to address cancer disparities in low- and middle- income (LMIC) countries, and a strengthening of existing U.S. bilateral science and technology engagements around cancer.
MEMORANDA OF UNDERSTANDING AND MEMORANDA OF COOPERATION
The Vice President announced the signing of ten new Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs or, in some cases, Memoranda of Cooperation (MOCs)) that will make available an unprecedented international dataset to advance cancer research and care. Seven of these MOUs and MOCs focus specifically on the study of proteogenomics and three focus more broadly on advancing cancer research and care through greater collaboration.
New MOUs/MOCs with Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, and the American Institute in Taiwan/Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office will build upon the Vice President’s effort to facilitate scientific collaborations in the field of clinical proteogenomic studies and their translation to cancer care. Proteogenomics is the study of genes and their protein products, specifically their role in cancer development and progression, and possible targets for therapies. These agreements are similar to the one the Vice President announced earlier this year in Australia.
These eight proteogenomic MOUs/MOCs represent an unprecedented international collaboration between the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and McGill University, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, American Institute in Taiwan/Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, Chang Gung University, and ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich). By aligning efforts through these MOUs/MOCs, fifteen institutions spanning eight countries will establish a new collaboration to facilitate the sharing of cancer‐associated clinical research data, genetic and other molecular information (DNA, RNA, and proteins), targeted tests, medical imaging, and subsequent public dissemination of products and data for use by cancer researchers and physicians around the world.
Advancing Cancer Research and Care Through Greater Collaboration
In addition to these proteogenomic research collaborations, the Vice President announced three new MOUs/MOCs with Japan, Serbia, and Sweden focused on advancing cancer research and care through greater collaboration. These agreements between the NCI, the Office of Global Affairs at Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ministry of Education and Research of the Government of the Kingdom of Sweden and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia, will create a general framework of collaboration for promoting and conducting high-quality research and data-sharing to strengthen the evidence base necessary for cancer prevention, treatment, and management. These MOUs /MOCs will establish joint steering committees that will meet at least one a year to develop strategic plans for collaboration, recommend areas and topics for joint workshops, develop collaborative research project solicitations, facilitate the expedited review and clearance of collaborative proposals, and foster other joint activities to advance research on cancer.
ADDRESSING DISPARITIES IN CANCER RESEARCH IN LOW AND MIDDLE-INCOME COUNTRIES
To address the issue of global disparities, and to enhance research progress in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), the Vice President announced the creation of a network of Regional Centers of Research Excellence (RCREs) that will support partnerships between high-income countries (HICs) and LMICs to lay the groundwork for planning and design of regional hubs to coordinate basic, translational, clinical, and population science research relevant to that LMIC region. The first set of six Regional Centers of Research Excellence will form a large population-based breast cancer cohort in Vietnam; strengthen management of data for breast cancer and hypertension in Botswana and South Africa; create a regional resource for cancer pathology and trauma surgery training in Malawi, develop an infrastructure to examine cancer and diabetes in Colombia, Costa Rico, Guatemala, and Mexico; build a pathology-based cancer registry to study breast, uterine, and cervical cancers in Bangladesh; and establish a country-wide, clinic-based method to prevent and control breast and oral cancers in India.
US DEPARTMENT OF STATE COMMITMENT TO EMPHASIZE CANCER COLLABORATION WORLDWIDE
Finally, the Vice President will announce today that the U.S. Department of State agrees to highlight and identify potential opportunities for cooperation in the Cancer Moonshot in a number of U.S. bilateral science & technology engagements. U.S. science and technology engagements seek to harness the best science between the U.S. and partner countries to make progress on our world’s highest priority problems, such as cancer. The U.S. works with policy makers and technical experts from over 70 countries and multilateral organizations and uses a variety of approaches including high-level meetings, agreements, and programs to address these issues.
Purpose and Scope of the International Collaborations and Investments
Proteogenomics Memoranda of Understanding
The purpose of these proteogenomics MOUs is to facilitate scientific and programmatic collaborations between research agencies and institutions in the United States, Canada, China, Germany, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, and the American Institute in Taiwan/ Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and Australia for basic and clinical proteogenomic studies and their translation to care. This will build upon the Cancer Moonshot Summit launch of the U.S. Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes (APOLLO) network and Australia's Proteome of Human Cancer.
The specific areas covered by the collaborations include three distinct areas:
Advancing Proteogenomic Research:
Following the blueprint from the U.S. Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium, researchers will develop sites that collect high-quality, clinically annotated, primary, and untreated tumor specimens from patients with specific cancer types in order to improve the understanding of the proteogenomic (both the genomics of the tumor and the expression of those genes as proteins) complexity of tumors. This focus will improve the understanding of tumor resistance and/or toxicity to therapy and the ability to predict treatment response by examining drug response or toxicity. Researchers will use proteogenomic signatures, alongside the patient’s medical imaging datasets, to develop an increased understanding of tumor biology with the potential of facilitating the identification of which treatments can be used to target a specific patient's tumor.
Researchers will develop and utilize innovative data analytic tools to analyze growing proteogenomic datasets. The algorithms and software from these projects will be made open source.
Preparation and Training of the Proteogenomics Research Workforce:
This agreement includes a program to train and exchange scientists with expertise in proteogenomic data, including training in working with clinical healthcare data and registry data and integration with analysis of molecular data.
Dissemination and Sharing of Information:
To the extent permitted by applicable law, regulation, and policy, resulting products and data will be made public to the research community upon the main manuscript being accepted for publication. Where applicable, scientific findings will be published jointly involving individuals from each institute.